Monday, May 4, 2015

Give ‘Real BIM’ a chance to be a Game-changer in AEC! ‘Real BIM’ could be the weapon for changing the game in the global AEC. There still are small fish with professional integrity surviving within the global waters of the AEC consultancy market wanting to strike back against the over-franchisers, purely business oriented BIG fish practising ‘Pretend BIM’ and redefine how the AEC is run; Real BIM could be the answer.

That’s a hell of a long title, I know.
And I like it like that. The post will be longish too – it is a complicated subject.
Yet, I will not spend much time on explaining the difference between Real and Pretend BIM.
Call me arrogant. Those that know the difference will understand my point.

I have long given up on BIM and on the professional integrity of the global AEC.
Sad, but true.
Not that the ‘Pretend BIM’, alive and kicking and moving from strength to strength is much worried about me not supporting it.
It has plenty of followers prepared to daily swallow the dogma with no questions asked.
The Global AEC seems unflustered too, on how low the professional integrity and technical capability of those that run it have sunk to, in general.

I said it before, I am noting it again: what is seen nowadays as a thriving ‘new’ approach to give the AEC a big kick to reinvigorate itself is still only a ‘Pretend BIM’.
The real thing, born sometime in the 1980s is these days surviving only in little isolated pockets of the global AEC industry, practiced by local firms or individuals.
The fact that it is still surviving here and there is of course good news and gives hope to another seemingly unstoppable trend getting challenged at some point in the future.
The trend, that originated somewhere in the 1980s too – and my term for it is, ‘The Global Takeover of the AEC consultancy Market by a Controlling Few’.  

I’m of course, talking about the AECOMs, Atkinses, and other ‘Top 100 Engineering Consultancies’ that for years have been gobbling up small local engineering firms East to West, North to South.

First there were doing local mergers, with the goal of becoming the biggest in the block and then came the acquisitions of often family firms with long history of practicing – to reach the obvious climax when the big fish turned onto one another and nowadays are only a handful of names ever considered for providing consultancy services at big, global construction projects.

There truly are very few fish circling the BIG waters of the Global AEC industry.

Infrastructure projects are the worst, but general building is not far behind, look at the participant’s names on almost any newly built hospital, airport, school or community centre, almost anywhere in the world. And the lists get pretty reparative.

There is hardly anything surprising in this trend. Other industries had done it, some quite a long time ago, financial institutions, banks, the transportation, hospitality even the educational industry.
So, why should not Engineering Consulting too?

Climb down from the flashy promotional movies of these giant organisations citing thousands of employees spread over the entire globe with an equal number of expertise on offer from any conceivable sub-subject within the art and craft of construction (the Atkinses, AECOMs and the like) and crawl into the real world of making projects work by utilising these – overblown, almost exclusively profit oriented, faceless organisations with mostly questionable professional capabilities.

It is not necessary the individuals that they employ that one finds difficult and/or underqualified for the job, many of the old school engineers have survived in the new environment to flash up a bit of genuine professional work here and there – but their ability to do so is highly limited by the machinery they are locked in.
There are never enough hours to do the job properly, never enough resources to support them well and timesheets and utilisation percentages hanging forever over their heads are ready to sabotage their KPIs, annual performance reviews and long term career prospects.

So, the ‘old’ often compromise on their professional values forever just to earn a living. The ‘young’ have never had the opportunity to learn to act technically/professionally due to such hard-core business driven environments, so they do what is best for their careers and adopt.

Leaving end-clients, governments, and the entire global industry to pick up the’ tab’ (financial, professional, moral etc.) of trying to pull off larger-and-larger engineering projects with thinner and thinner professional supports.

Some of the more speculative parts of the global AEC client segment (developers for example) know very well this phenomenon to be true but are also benefiting from it when the gamble works right for them – so why even consider changing it?
As long the hot potatoes of risk are passed onto others, the wheels keep turning, who cares if the big name engineers do not know what they are doing?

This topic is worthy enough to be explored on its own – my previous attempts have made little impacts on the forums I tried to raise it – it is a ‘hot potato’ on its own, something few are prepared to acknowledge, it impacts too deeply on most of the people that make up the industry they should by default be needing to also clean up, if for nothing else for the survival of the basic engineering skills that were built up over centuries.
Add to it the big (or pretend to be big) global drive to have (the pretend) BIM as a solution for the improvement of the industry infused into construction projects and the end results are disastrous.

I daily meet representatives of these giant organisations claiming to be absolute leaders in BIM (as well as everything else, of course) while producing non-BIM documentation that would miss basic QA tests of old hand-drawn drawings by a mile and turn many-a good masters of the art and craft in their respected graves.

These big name practitioners hide behind scopes, roles and responsibilities to produce rubbish and rely on the ignorance of those that are supposed to take them to the task of delivering something worthwhile for the end user.

Of course they are rarely questioned, the representatives of the other side (the end user) are staffed from the same pool – these quasi engineers/business/project managers move seamlessly between the various monsters of the ‘A list consultancies’. In fact the monsters themselves often act in multiple, conflicting roles on projects that a healthy industry should never tolerate.

The AEC is doomed as long as these A-listers keep growing and taking up more of the market share and BIM with it too.

But, as indicated in the beginning of the article, I see some hope too.
Eventually, of course nature will take its course and small, specialist, technically capable consultancies will start reclaiming ground and they will be the ones to push REAL BIM (or other future approaches that have fundamentals in engineering and working better) to become more mainstream and the norm.
In turn the entire industry may find its need rise for professional integrity and technical proficiency across the board.

Give BIM a chance?
Spare the little fish that still have professional integrity, technical capability and the willingness to change the game and they may find the way to use it for the betterment of all….(in spite the odds stacked heavily against them).